Friday, July 1, 2011

Rice and Olives— the easiest side dish ever!

Don't you hate it when you get back from the grocery store and realize you forgot the most important thing on the list you should have made?

I was toying with the idea of making a vibrant,  Latin-inspired rice to go with two gorgeous ribeyes, but I got home and realized I forgot to pick up the celery for the sofrito. As if that wasn't annoying enough, we didn't have the onions I thought we had. Oh, did I mention  we were expecting guests at any moment?  Talk about big planning fail.

Just when I was going to scrap the rice idea,  I looked in the fridge and saw a tub of marinated olives hiding out behind the milk. Perfect!  I was able to do the rice after all and it was a hit all around.

Here's what you'll need:
  • about 1 to 2 cups marinated green or black olives in oil (make sure you get plenty of good stuff,  like peppers and garlic)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • several springs thyme, leaves only (oregano works well too)
  • 2 to 3 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice 
  • 3 cups concentrated chicken stock

Here's what you do:

Heat up a shallow, heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. A paella pan would work well as long as it has a lid. You can add a little oil if your olives don't have much oil. (Yes, you can use the olive mix in brine, but be sure the drain the brine and use about 4 tbs oil.) Sauté the olives, marinade and all,  for 2 to 3 minutes. Don't let it brown.

If you wanted to (and if you have the them), add some same finely chopped onions and celery with the olive mix and sauté until they are softened.

Add the tomato paste, chopped garlic and chopped herbs. You could also add additional seasonings to taste, like chili powder or ground cumin. Continue to sauté until the fresh garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute, adjusting the heat to keep from burning.

Add the rice and turn to coat well with the base.

Add the stock.  Be sure to use a good quality, potent stock.  It's what gives the rice flavor.  If you don't have stock, use bouillon cubes or similar.  Plain water will result in plain rice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bring the liquid up to a boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover and allow to cook for about 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. About half way through cooking, I quickly stir the rice a little to make sure everything is cooking evenly. It's not really necessary.

When it' s done, the liquid will be absorbed and the rice will be tender without being mushy. The color will be a vibrant yellow-orange. A sprinkling of chopped Italian parsley would look great.

This rice went really well with the grilled ribeyes, but  it would be great with any grilled or roasted meat or fish. Or how about shellfish, such as shrimp or clams? You could nestle those in toward the end of cooking.


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